At Tentuplay (Sentience Inc.), we collaborate with team members from different parts of the world who represent diverse nationalities. In this article, Yhra, an enthusiastic intern from the Philippines, will discuss the potential of the gaming industry in her home country.

I remember in the mid-2000s, in every single internet cafe in the Philippines it would always be full of people playing DotA. Whenever I visit my cousins, there’s always a moment in the day where they would excuse themselves because they have to play DotA with their friends. At the time, I thought it was just a phase since trends come and go, little did I know this was an indication of the start of a new era.

What the Game Industry brings to the Philippines

Job creation: The gaming industry is creating jobs in a number of areas, including game development, game design, animation, marketing, and esports. Over 400 local game publishers are on Google Play which led to investments in the industry, hence, opening job opportunities in the country.

Economic growth: The gaming industry is contributing to the economic growth of the Philippines. For example, in-app purchases are expected to reach $1.3 billion in this year. With the industry’s growth it has attracted foreign investors and international gaming companies to set up branches in the country such as Ubisoft and Gameloft among several others.

Brand awareness: The gaming industry is helping to promote the Philippines as a tourist destination. Many gamers around the world are now aware of the Philippines as a result of the country's success in esports. Tournaments and other events in the country will attract people from all over the world and will promote the country’s image and other tourist attractions.

The Rise of ESports

Internet cafes were the go-to spots for social gaming and sometimes computer shops would hold internal tournaments for multiplayer games such as DotA. One could say that internet cafes have been doing (unofficial) esport tournaments in the 2000s. It was a breeding ground for professional esports players we know today.

Come 2010, with the rise of live streams on Youtube and Twitch, gamers were able to exhibit their skills to a wider audience increasing interest and awareness of the sport. Its turning point was in 2011, when the Mineski Pro-Gaming League event was held and became a huge success. Since then, tournaments were held on a bigger scale and attracted more investors in this emerging scene.

With its rapid growth, a national governing body for esports, Philippine ESports Organization (PeSO) was established in 2011 led by Commissioner Brian Lim of Cebu City Sports Commission. Major stakeholders and organizations who are members of PeSO include eSports teams such as Bren Esports or The Nationals, internet cafe company like Mineski, and gaming talent agency like Tier One Entertainment, etc. In 2019, two of PeSO members collaborated to launch esports as a medalled event in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games held in the Philippines. And in 2020, it was accredited by the Philippine Olympic committee as the official National Sports Association (NSA) for esports in the Philippines.

Some Filipino esports athletes have gained worldwide recognition for their skills. Taken from One Esports article written by Jules Elona, here are 7 of the greatest Filipino esports athletes:

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Djardel Jicko B. “DJ” Mampusti (DotA 2) : FNATIC team’s captain

Caviar Napoleon “EnDerr” Marquises-Acampado (Starcraft II): First StarCraft player to win gold in SEA Games

CJ Ribo “Ribo” (Mobile Legends: Bang Bang) : Only athlete to play all 5 team roles professionally

Jake Kevin Puchero “Xmithie” (League of Legends): Previously a member of Team Liquid, Counter Logic Gaming, and Immortals.

Danerie James “Wise” Del Rosario (Mobile Legends: Bang Bang): Together with OhMyV33nu, they pioneered the UBE (Ultimate Bonding Experience) strategy that led Blacklist International to placing top 3 in local and international tournaments.

Alexandre “AK” Laverez (Tekken 7): A child prodigy who competed in the 2013 King of Iron Fist Global Championship against the world’s best players

Johnmar “OhMyV33nus” Villaluna (Mobile Legends: Bang Bang): Led Blacklist International to 3 MPL PH titles, the first team to ever achieve this in the Philippines

Factors Contributing to the Viability of the Gaming Industry

A large and young population: The Philippines has a large population of over 117 million people, with a median age of 25. This young population is increasingly adopting gaming as a form of entertainment and leisure.

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A high smartphone penetration rate: The smartphone penetration rate in the Philippines reached 76% this year, and will reach almost 78% in 2028 with a mobile game penetration rate of 30.97%. The Philippines is a mobile-first country when it comes to gaming due to low barriers of entry. By 2027, Filipino mobile gamers are projected to reach 37 million users.

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Supportive government: The government of the Philippines has recognized the potential of the gaming industry and has taken steps to promote it. It has officially recognized esports as a professional sport in 2017 and has provided grants to game developers and sponsored esports tournaments.

Supportive private sectors: Game Developers Association of the Philippines (GDAP), a trade association, was formed in 2007 to promote the growth of the Philippine Industry. Also, Philippine Universities have started offering courses on esports and gaming such as Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU) who offers a Bachelor of Science in Esports. Tier One Entertainment, a gaming talent agency, helped develop the curriculum and has 2 tracks: Esports Management, and Game Design and Developmenhavet.

The rise of esports: Esports, or competitive video gaming, is becoming increasingly popular in the Philippines. In 2019, the Philippines hosted the Southeast Asian Games, which included esports as a medal event for the first time. The Philippines won 3 Gold Medals (DotA 2, Starcraft II, and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang), 1 Silver Medal (Tekken 7), and 1 Bronze Medal (Tekken 7). The Philippine team bagged the most medals and the most gold medals out of the 6 countries competing. This event showcased that Philippine players are a force to be reckoned with.

About The Game Developers Association of the Philippines

The Game Developers Association of the Philippines (GDAP) was founded in 2007 and is a non-stock non-profit organization dedicated to representing and promoting not only game development in the Philippines but also its gamers. It is the only government recognized Trade Association composed of professionals in the business, gaming, and education sectors of the Philippines with ties to the International Game Developers Association.

The GDAP has a number of initiatives, including:

Providing resources: The GDAP provides resources to game developers in the fields of game development, art, design, management, and others such as technical support, localization, and audio engineering.

Advocating for the industry: The GDAP advocates for the gaming industry, both domestically and internationally. This includes lobbying the government for support, and promoting the industry to potential investors.

How far do you think the GDAP representatives can go to elevate the game industry? The answer is 11,491 KM. The representatives flew to California not only to attend events but to meet with the Philippine Consulate General and the Philippine Trade and Investment Center in Silicon Valley. They discussed game business models used by Filipino game studios, what the government can do to support the industry, and possible strategies to employ in the future to bring Filipino games and developers into the global scene.

Organizing events: The GDAP organizes a number of events, such as

Philippine Game Festival: This used to be an annual event starting 2009, but ended in 2015. It was the largest gaming convention attended by game enthusiasts, designers and developers in the local scene. This convention held two (2) events: the Game On Challenge, a game development competition for students, and the PGF Annual Awards, a ceremony recognizing the country's best developers and the games made throughout the year.

BizCon: An online conference and business matchmaking event held for the first time in 2022 to promote business development and attract investment opportunities. It was an avenue for international companies who are interested in the Philippine game industry to learn more about the local scene. Big players such as Valve, Google Play, Niko Partners, and Razer Gold joined the event.

Philippine GameDev Expo: The first GameDev Expo in the Philippines will be held on August 18-20, 2023. The expo will focus on game development to showcase the talent of Filipino and International game developers. On the business side, there will be workshops, panel discussions, and masterclasses.The event features guest speakers from Razer Gold, Unreal Engine, and Boomzap Entertainment. For the rest of the community, there will be game demos, hardware showcases, a cosplay competition, community gatherings, and more.

With all the efforts they put in, it is easy to say that GDAP is one of the most important organizations to propel the Philippine game industry forward.

The Future of the Gaming Industry in the Philippines

Compared to top gaming countries such as the USA, China, Japan, and South Korea, the Philippines still needs more development and advancements in terms of infrastructure, government support, and a proper esports ecosystem. This means there are a lot of opportunities for growth in this industry. With the dedication and passion of Filipino gamers combined with both mobile gaming and esports rising in the Philippines as well as gaining worldwide recognition, the gaming industry will continue its upward trajectory and is poised to be a major driver of growth in the Philippines in the years to come.

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